Recent reports of on-going traffic accidents and carnage on South African roads has caused alarm and serious concern.

Recent reports of on-going traffic accidents and carnage on South African roads has caused alarm and serious concern. This has exposed a number of issues, one of which is alcohol abuse and driving. As a result, a new bill focussing on a total and complete ban of any amount of drinking and driving has been outlined in the Draft National Road Traffic Amendment Bill, which was gazetted last week for public comment.

“According to a recently released study by the Medical Research Council (MRC), alcohol consumption accounts for an average of R300 billion in taxes per year,” says Lizette Erasmus, Head of Insurance Expertise at IntegriSure. “It indicates that R38 billion of this amount was utilised to deal with unfortunate circumstances caused by alcohol, such as disabilities, illnesses, crime and unintentional injuries.”

This study, along with the World Health Organisations (WHO), ranking South Africa as fourth in a study to determine countries with the riskiest drinkers, has contributed to the Department of Transport proposing a complete ban on alcohol for South African drivers.

The new bill proposes that no individual shall be on a public road or drive a vehicle / occupy the driver’s seat of a vehicle with the engine running, while under the influence of any amount of alcohol. “This move is an encouraging step towards more focus on this serious problem,” says Erasmus. “However, South Africa already has some of the world’s leading ‘best-practice’ road laws and bi-laws in place, and the real issue here is the consistent and pro-active enforcement of these laws.”

“If the proposed bill is accepted into law it may affect the insurance industry to some extent, in terms of the provisions within our policies,” explains Erasmus. “As an industry, we welcome any steps that government takes to minimise the terrible consequences of alcohol abuse on the roads, and this action has certainly raised awareness around an issue that affects the lives of South Africans on a daily basis.”

Erasmus continues to say that while alcohol abuse is currently at the centre of this debate, road safety at large needs to be addressed. “It is our hope that this renewed focus on the issue will also lead to a renewed emphasis on more active law enforcement, which we believe will ultimately be the solution to a range of road safety issues occurring in South Africa at the moment,” she concludes.